Flowers and Fun

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

East Tupelo will be awash in color next weekend as the 11th annual Azalea Festival welcomes the Up, Up and Away Hot Air Balloon Festival to Veterans Memorial Park.
Activities for the April 8-9 event include arts and crafts, musical entertainment, hot air balloons, games and rides for children, azalea vendors, food, 5K run, antique car show, Mr. & Miss Azalea Bud Pageant, pancake breakfast and a driving tour.
Tickets are $15 for an adult (ages 13 and up) weekend pass; $7 for a child weekend pass; $10 for an adult ticket for Friday or Saturday; and $5 for a child or senior ticket for Friday or Saturday. Tickets may be purchased at Busylad, Creative Cakes and Reed’s.
“Last year, the Azalea Fest drew between 2,000 and 2,300 people,” said Keith Henley, president of the Presley Heights Neighborhood Association and one of the event’s organizers. “I think the balloon festival at Ballard Park had 4,500 to 5,000. So we’re anticipating 8,000 to 10,000 people this year.”
All proceeds go to the Presley Heights Neighborhood Association and Tupelo Christian Preparatory School.

Focus on flowers
As always, a focal point of the festival will be azaleas.
“Lakefront Nursery in east Tupelo is our sole nursery vendor this year,” Henley said. “They will have azaleas, as well as other plants, for sale.”
Azalea Walks will be held several times on Friday and Saturday; the event is like a cake walk, only winners will receive azaleas and other prizes instead of cakes.
“One new thing we’re introducing this year is the Azalea Toss,” Henley said. “We’ll have a board with little buckets attached to the board, and you toss a beanbag in and try to hit a bucket. Each bucket is worth different points, and the points determine the prizes. We’ll even have a leader board like they have at golf tournaments.”
And what would an Azalea Festival be without a driving tour?
A map is available at www.presleyheights.com. The route begins at the Elvis Presley Birthplace and the drive is well-marked. You can expect to see deciduous azaleas, evergreen azaleas and rhododendrons, along with other spring blossoms of dogwoods, red buds and wisteria. The tour will be open through the end of the month.
“We’re going to have beautiful weather for the festival weekend,” Henley said. “I’m predicting that right now. We’ll have something there for everyone.”
For more information, call Keith Henley at (662) 213-5599 or visit wwwupupnawayfest.info or www.presleyheights.com.

Weekend fun
– What: Azalea Festival Welcomes Up, Up and Away Hot Air Balloon Festival.
– When: April 8 from 5 to 11 p.m. and April 9 from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
– Where: Veterans Memorial Park in east Tupelo.
– Activities: Arts and crafts, musical entertainment, hot air balloons, games and rides for children, azalea vendors, food, 5K run, antique car show, Mr. & Miss Azalea Bud Pageant and driving tour.
– Cost: $15 for adult (age 13 and up) weekend pass; $7 for child weekend pass; $10 for adult ticket for Friday or Saturday; $5 for child or senior ticket for Friday or Saturday. Tickets may be purchased at Busylad, Creative Cakes and Reed’s.
– Info: Call Keith Henley at (662) 213-5599 or visit wwwupupnawayfest.info or www.presleyheights.com.